Battle Of Malta

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Battle Of Malta

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Battle Of Malta

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Cornut was killed. Angelo in Grand Harbour after the inhabitants of Malta had revolted. Roger learnt this and sent his own fleet to support the Maltese.

Arriving at night, he made contact with a besieger and sent a sentry boat into the harbor. It reported that the Angevin galleys were beached under the castle walls.

Roger moved his galleys into line abreast at the entrance to the harbor, silencing the guard boats in the process, and connected his ships together.

At about dawn he ordered a trumpet challenge to be sounded. His reason for doing this is not clear. Although the Turks did succeed in capturing St.

Elmo, allowing Piyale to anchor his fleet in Marsamxett, the siege of Fort St. Elmo had cost the Turks at least 6, men, including half of their Janissaries.

Mustafa had the bodies of the knights decapitated and their bodies floated across the bay on mock crucifixes. In response, de Valette beheaded all his Turkish prisoners, loaded their heads into his cannons and fired them into the Turkish camp.

By this time, word of the siege was spreading. As soldiers and adventurers gathered in Sicily for Don Garcia's relief, panic spread as well.

There can be little doubt that the stakes were high, perhaps higher than at any other time in the contest between the Ottoman Empire and Europe. Queen Elizabeth I of England wrote: [35].

If the Turks should prevail against the Isle of Malta, it is uncertain what further peril might follow to the rest of Christendom. All contemporary sources indicate the Turks intended to proceed to the Tunisian fortress of La Goletta and wrest it from the Spaniards, and Suleiman had also spoken of invading Europe through Italy.

However, modern scholars tend to disagree with this interpretation of the siege's importance. Sire, a historian who has written a history of the Order, is of the opinion that the siege represented an overextension of Ottoman forces, and argues that if the island had fallen, it would have quickly been retaken by a massive Spanish counterattack.

Although Don Garcia did not at once send the promised relief troops were still being levied , he was persuaded to release an advance force of some men under the command of Don Melchior de Robles, a Spanish knight.

After several attempts, this piccolo soccorso Italian : small relief managed to land on Malta in early July and sneak into Birgu, raising the spirits of the besieged garrison immensely.

On 15 July, Mustafa ordered a double attack against the Senglea peninsula. He had transported small vessels across Mt.

Sciberras to the Grand Harbour, thus avoiding the strong cannons of Fort St. Angelo, in order to launch a sea attack against the promontory using about 1, Janissaries, while the Corsairs attacked Fort St.

Michael on the landward end. Luckily for the Maltese, a defector warned de Valette about the impending strategy and the Grand Master had time to construct a palisade along the Senglea promontory, which successfully helped to deflect the attack.

Nevertheless, the assault probably would have succeeded had not the Turkish boats come into point-blank range less than yards of a sea-level battery of five cannons that had been constructed by Commander Chevalier de Guiral at the base of Fort St.

Angelo with the sole purpose of stopping such an amphibious attack. Just two salvos sank all but one of the vessels, killing or drowning over of the attackers.

The land attack failed simultaneously when relief forces were able to cross to Ft. Michael across a floating bridge, with the result that Malta was saved for the day.

The Turks by now had ringed Birgu and Senglea with some 65 siege guns and subjected the town to what was probably the most sustained bombardment in history up to that time.

Balbi claims that , cannonballs were fired during the course of the siege. Having largely destroyed one of the town's crucial bastions , Mustafa ordered another massive double assault on 7 August, this time against Fort St.

Michael and Birgu itself. On this occasion, the Turks breached the town walls and it seemed that the siege was over, but unexpectedly the invaders retreated.

As it happened, the cavalry commander Captain Vincenzo Anastagi, on his daily sortie from Mdina, had attacked the unprotected Turkish field hospital, killing everyone.

The Turks, thinking the Christian relief had arrived from Sicily, broke off their assault. After the attack of 7 August, the Turks resumed their bombardment of St.

Michael and Birgu , mounting at least one other major assault against the town on 19—21 August. What actually happened during those days of intense fighting is not entirely clear.

Bradford's account of the climax of the siege has a mine exploding with a huge blast, breaching the town walls and causing stone and dust to fall into the ditch, with the Turks charging even as the debris was still falling.

He also has the year-old de Valette saving the day by leading towards the Turks some hundred troops that had been waiting in the Piazza of Birgu.

Balbi, in his diary entry for 20 August, says only that de Valette was told the Turks were within the walls; the Grand Master ran to "the threatened post where his presence worked wonders.

Sword in hand, he remained at the most dangerous place until the Turks retired. Rather, in his report a panic ensued when the townspeople spied the Turkish standards outside the walls.

The Grand Master ran there, but found no Turks. In the meantime, a cannonade atop Ft. Angelo, stricken by the same panic, killed a number of townsfolk with friendly fire.

The situation was sufficiently dire that, at some point in August, the Council of Elders decided to abandon the town and retreat to Fort St.

De Valette, however, vetoed this proposal. If he guessed that the Turks were losing their will, he was correct. Although the bombardment and minor assaults continued, the invaders were stricken by an increasing desperation.

Towards the end of August, the Turks attempted to take Fort St. Michael, first with the help of a manta similar to a Testudo formation , a small siege engine covered with shields, then by use of a full-blown siege tower.

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Questions or concerns? Interested in participating in the Publishing Partner Program? Let us know. Siege of Malta , May—September The Siege of Malta, one of the most savagely contested encounters of the sixteenth century, followed after the forces of the Ottoman Empire invaded the island.

Controlled by the Knights Hospitaller since their expulsion from Rhodes , Malta was the key to Christian defenses against Ottoman expansion in the Mediterranean.

The Maltese knights had expected an attack since the Ottoman naval victory at the Battle of Djerba in The Ottomans took five years to launch their attack; the delay gave the Knights Hospitaller the opportunity to strengthen their fortifications and Christian Europe time to rebuild its fleets.

Elmo at the entrance to Grand Harbour. The sheer scale of the force—around ships and 40, soldiers—may have been one reason why it took so long to invade.

Besides preparing for offensive operations and reinforcing the RAF on the island, Lloyd also rectified many of the deficiencies.

Thousands of Maltese and 3, British Army soldiers were drafted in to better protect the airfields. Even technical staff, clerks and flight crews helped when required.

Dispersal strips were built, repair shops were moved underground from dockyards and airfields. Underground shelters were also created in the belief that the Luftwaffe would soon return.

In the attack, 15 men were killed and 18 captured, and most of the boats were lost. The bridge was never restored, and it was only in that a new one was built in its place.

Lloyd asked his bombers to attack at mast-height, increasing accuracy but making them easier targets for Italian anti-aircraft defences.

Part of the reason for this favourable outcome in November , was the arrival of Force K of the Royal Navy, which during the Battle of the Duisburg Convoy sank all the ships, which practically blockaded Libyan ports.

Following the disaster and with a resurgence of the Axis aerial bombardment of Malta, surface ships were withdrawn from the central Mediterranean in January While Italian bombing was again proving successful against the British, the Luftwaffe returned in force in December to renew intensive bombing.

Eight Marylands, two other aircraft, three Beaufighters, one Blenheim fighter and many bombers were also lost. The mounting shipping supply losses affected Geisler's ability to support Erwin Rommel and his forces, which caused tension between the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe.

Geisler was to be returned to Sicily with his remaining air strength to solve the issue. However, the Germans backed down over Italian protests.

On 6 October Geisler did extend his air sector responsibilities to cover the Tripoli-Naples sea route to curtail losses. They quickly eliminated Malta's striking force, which was beyond the range of fighter escort while over the Mediterranean.

In the first two months, around 20 RAF bombers and reconnaissance aircraft were shot down. The only notable triumph was the sinking of the 13,ton Victoria merchant ship, one of the fastest merchantmen afloat, by a Fairey Albacore of Squadron, flown by Lieutenant Baxter Ellis, on 23 January.

Over the island, the defensive arm of the RAF was also put under pressure. Kesselring began with a raid on New Year's Day, the 1,th raid of the war.

Of the fighters that had passed through or stayed on the island since the war began, only 28 remained. One-third of all raids were directed against airfields.

The usual tactic involved a sweep ahead of the bombers by German fighters to clear the skies; this worked, and air superiority was maintained.

Only slight losses were suffered by the bombers. Dobbie and the British naval and air commanders argued for modern aircraft, particularly Spitfires , to be sent to Malta.

The pilots told Embry that the Hurricanes were useless and that the Spitfire was their only hope. The squadron leaders argued the inferiority of their aircraft was affecting morale.

Embry agreed and recommended that Spitfires be sent; the type began arriving in March On 29—30 April , a plan for the invasion of the island was approved by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini during a meeting at Berchtesgaden.

It envisaged an airborne assault with one German and one Italian airborne division, under the command of German General Kurt Student.

This would have been followed by a seaborne landing of two or three divisions protected by the Regia Marina.

The Italians, in agreement with Kesselring, made the invasion of Malta the priority in the region. However, two major factors stopped Hitler from giving the operation the green light.

The first was Erwin Rommel. Due to Kesselring's pounding of the island the supply lines to North Africa had been secured.

He was able to gain the ascendancy in North Africa once again. Although Rommel believed Malta should be invaded, he insisted the conquest of Egypt and the Suez Canal, not Malta, was the priority.

The second was Hitler himself. After the Battle of Crete in May—June , Hitler was nervous about using paratroopers to invade the island since the Crete campaign had cost this arm heavy losses, and he started to procrastinate in making a decision.

Kesselring complained. Hitler proposed a compromise. He suggested that if the Egyptian border was reached once again in the coming months the fighting at the time was taking place in Libya , the Axis could invade in July or August when a full moon would provide ideal conditions for a landing.

Although frustrated, Kesselring was relieved the operation had seemingly been postponed rather than shelved. Before the Spitfires arrived, other attempts were made to reduce losses.

Lloyd had requested a highly experienced combat leader be sent and Turner's experience flying with Douglas Bader over Europe meant he was qualified to lead the unit.

All but one reached the island. By 21 April just 27 Spitfires were still airworthy, and by evening that had fallen to The overwhelming Axis bombardments had also substantially eroded Malta's offensive naval and air capabilities.

Often, three to five Italian bombers would fly very low over their targets and drop their bombs with precision, regardless of the RAF attacks and ground fire.

Along with the advantage in the air, the Germans soon discovered that British submarines were operating from Manoel Island , not Grand Harbour, and exploited their air superiority to eliminate the threat.

The base came under attack, the vessels had to spend most of their time submerged, and the surrounding residences where crews had enjoyed brief rest periods were abandoned.

Hitler's strategy of neutralising Malta by siege seemed to be working. The Germans lost aircraft in the operations.

The Allies moved to increase the number of Spitfires on the island. On 9 May, the Italians announced 37 Axis losses. On 10 May, the Axis lost 65 aircraft destroyed or damaged in large air battles over the island.

The Hurricanes were able to focus on the Axis bombers and dive-bombers at lower heights, while the Spitfires, with their superior rate of climb, engaged enemy aircraft at higher levels.

With such a force established, the RAF had the firepower to deal with any Axis attacks. By the spring of , the Axis air forces ranged against the island were at their maximum strength.

Bomber units included Junkers Ju 88s of II. After the battles of May and June, the air attacks were much reduced in August and September. The island appeared to the Axis forces to be neutralised as a threat to their convoys.

Rommel could now look forward to offensive operations with the support of the Luftwaffe in North Africa. Even so, he was soon back in Egypt fighting at El Alamein.

Despite the reduction in direct air pressure over Malta itself, the situation on the island was serious. It was running out of all essential commodities, particularly food and water, as the bombing had crippled pumps and distribution pipes.

Clothing was also hard to come by. All livestock had been slaughtered, and the lack of leather meant people were forced to use curtains and used tyres to replace clothing and shoe soles.

Although the civilian population was enduring, the threat of starvation was very real. The move was designed to split Axis naval forces attempting to intervene.

Although he could afford this diversion, he could maintain a standing patrol of only four Spitfires over the convoy.

If Axis aircraft attacked as they were withdrawing, they had to stay and fight. Baling out if the pilots ran low on fuel was the only alternative to landing on Malta.

The pilots had to hope that they would be picked up by the ships. The losses of the convoy were heavy. Three destroyers and 11 merchant vessels were also sunk.

They torpedoed and sank the heavy cruiser Trento and damaged the battleship Littorio. A further 16 Malta-based pilots were lost in the operations.

In August, the Operation Pedestal convoy brought vital relief to the besieged island, but at heavy cost. It was attacked from the sea and from the air.

Moreover, the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle , one cruiser and three destroyers were sunk by a combined effort from the Italian Navy, Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe.

Nevertheless, the operation though costly in lives and ships, was vital in bringing in much-needed war materials and supplies. Indeed, according to Sadkovich and others, to pretend that the air offensive against Malta had been a purely German affair is misleading.

The Italians must thus get some share of the credit for the destruction of British fighters on Malta, and the sinking of 23 of 82 merchantmen dispatched to the island.

But the RAF preferred to credit its losses to the Germans, even though the Italians flew more fighter missions over the island, had almost as many fighters on Sicily as the Germans in the whole Mediterranean in November , and seem to have been better pilots, losing one aircraft per 63 sorties, compared to a German loss rate of one per 42 sorties.

The surface fleets were not the only supply line to Malta. British submarines also made a substantial effort. She could not go as deep or dive as quickly as the T- and U-class types, but she still made nine supply missions to Malta, which was more than any other vessel of its type.

The ability of the submarine to carry large loads enabled it to be of great value in the campaign to lift the siege. It was felt that a man with past experience of fighter defence operations was needed.

For some reason, the Air Staff did not choose to do this earlier, when the bombing ceased in , and the RAF forces on Malta became primarily fighter-armed while the principal aim changed to one of air defence.

Park arrived on 14 July by flying boat. He landed in the midst of a raid although Lloyd had specifically requested he circle the harbour until it had passed.

Lloyd met Park and admonished him for taking an unnecessary risk. Park had faced Kesselring before during the Battle of Britain.

During that battle, Park had advocated sending small numbers of fighters into battle to meet the enemy. There were three fundamental reasons for this.

First, there would always be fighters in the air covering those on the ground if one did not send their entire force to engage at once.

Second, small numbers were quicker to position and easier to move around. Third, the preservation of his force was critical.

The fewer fighters he had in the air he advocated 16 at most , the smaller target the numerically superior enemy would have. Over Malta, he reversed these tactics owing to changed circumstances.

With plenty of Spitfires to operate, Park sought to intercept the enemy and break up his formations before the bombers reached the island.

Until this point, the Spitfires had fought defensively. They scrambled and headed south to gain height, then turned around to engage the enemy over the island.

Now, with improved radar and quicker take off times two to three minutes and improved air-sea rescue, more offensive action became possible. Using three squadrons, Park asked the first to engage the escorting fighters by 'bouncing them' out of the sun.

The second would strike at the close escort, or, if unescorted, the bombers themselves. The third was to attack the bombers head-on.

His Forward Interception Plan , issued officially on 25 July , forced the Axis to abandon daylight raids within six days. Kesselring responded by sending in fighter sweeps at even higher altitudes to gain the tactical advantage.

The methods would have great effect in October when Kesselring returned. While the RAF and Royal Navy defensive operations dominated for the most part, offensive strikes were still being carried out.

Axis forces in North Africa were denied around half of their supplies and two-thirds of their oil.

The submarines of Simpson's 10th Flotilla were on patrol constantly, except for the period May—July , when Kesselring made a considerable effort against their bases.

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